Shanghai Disneyland is welcoming visitors back with open arms, quite literally.
After a three-year ban due to social distancing concerns during the pandemic, visitors could finally hug Micky Mouse again at the Shanghai location of ‘The Happiest Place On Earth’ starting on March 6.
Disney temporarily suspended the character meet-and-greet opportunities at its global parks and resorts at the height of the pandemic to protect the safety of staff and guests.
And while most of Disney’s parks lifted the ban on hugging in 2022, those in the Greater China market kept the ban in place until relatively recently due to the country’s strict zero-Covid policy.
However, as China abruptly transitioned away from its controversial disease-control approach, Hong Kong Disneyland Resort resumed physical interactions between guests and characters in January, while Shanghai Disneyland followed suit two months later.
Meet-and-greet opportunities with fan-favorite characters have long been one of the most magical and popular experiences for adults and kids alike at Disneyland parks.
Whether it’s receiving a warm hug from Winnie the Pooh or shaking hands with Donald Duck, people sometimes line up for hours to enjoy a few minutes of one-on-one interaction with these beloved characters.
Chinese Disney fans are overjoyed by the policy change, as evidenced by the fact that a hashtag related to the news amassed more than 260 million views in less than 10 hours on Weibo, China’s top microblogging platform.
According to data from Trip.com Group, a Chinese multinational online travel firm, searches for Shanghai Disneyland tickets have more than tripled, and inquiries into hotels in the surrounding area have more than doubled.
But while avid fans rush to book their visit, some are also raising concerns about the safety of the amusement park’s staff, as multiple attacks on the costumed actors at Shanghai Disneyland have been reported over the years.
The two most prominent incidents are the assault on Duffy the Disney Bear in 2021 and a guest hitting LinaBell — one of the most popular characters at Shanghai Disneyland — in the head earlier this year.
The attacks caused outrage online, with netizens urging Disney to blacklist the attackers and provide better protection for their staff.
In an article on WeChat, China’s famed super-app developed by Tencent, M.D. Huang Jia from Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine explained that the costume headpieces worn by actors at Disney theme parks lack the soft protective structures found in regular helmets.
As a result, the force of any impact on the head is transferred to the actor wearing the costume and can lead to a concussion and ruptured eardrums.
Cover image via VCG
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